Speaking Spanish in Spain

Speaking Spanish in Spain

“If you want to blend in with the Spanish you’ll eventually have to succumb to this catchy and contagious word. ¡VALE!”

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Part of being a PINC intern consists of taking a week of Spanish classes. Being born in the Dominican Republic and moving to the United States at the age of two, you would think that any Spanish I had learned I would have long forgotten. Thankfully, my parents always stressed the importance of learning and maintaining our mother tongue in order to not lose our identity. From a very young age my parents taught my brother and I how to read and write in Spanish. We were giving daily “dictados” where they would have us write down sentences that they would say out loud, as well as home-style written spelling “bees”, and would have us take turns reading to one another. This helped form our fluidity in the Spanish language to match our English speaking level.

I was a bit nervous about what level I would place at the Spanish school considering that now that I am older I speak and write mostly in English at work, in school, and with my friends. But, I was happy to learn that my Spanish was actually pretty excellent, and yet I was still excited to continue learning more about the Spanish language in the country where it, (along with my roots) originated from. Regardless of the fact that I am a native speaker, I knew that there were many differences between what I call “Dominican” Spanish and “Spanish” Spanish, therefore there was a lot that I did not understand but was extremely eager to learn about. In a week alone, I learned words that never in the 23 years of my Spanish-speaking life I had ever heard of, but that I could actually use in regular conversation. Our professor made it fun to learn and feel at ease with one another by playing different games, discussing cultural differences, and analyzing Spanish humor in comparison to the humor utilized from each of my classmates’ backgrounds including my own.

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When it came to my internship placement i asked to be place in a company that mainly functioned in Spanish. Finally being challenged to use Spanish in the work place not only when speaking to my co-workers, but in my daily writing tasks as well really pushed me to continue practicing the language throughout the summer. I was speaking just as much Spanish on a daily basis as I did English back at home and it was amazing. The new Spanish expressions and words that I learned in just a week’s worth of classes gave me the confidence I needed to feel at ease when communicating with locals. I felt like a Madrileña when walking down the street towards the metro and actually understanding the jokes and conversations I would overhear. Even something as simple as doing my groceries was a breeze because I would just pull out the excúsame or una pregunta por favor when I couldn’t find something. This also worked at restaurants when ordering a meal. I was able to ask questions about different types of food I didn’t know about, order appropriately, and most importantly (for us millennials) ask for the Wi-Fi password (pronounced wee-fee in Spanish)! For anyone at any Spanish level, I can assure you that your Spanish will improve. Drawing from my experience, I can vouch that the Spanish are very kind and helpful people. They were understanding with my roommates’ who’s first language was not Spanish, as well as extremely patient and accommodating.

Something that really pushed us all to practice our Spanish conversational skills in our classes were the group discussions with students in a lower level. We got to talk about real societal issues, cultural habits, and put to practice the new Spanish phrases that we learned. The after class activities was another aspect that were great opportunities for not only practicing Spanish amongst ourselves but with locals as well, while learning more about Madrid and its culture. We quickly learned how many times Spanish people say “vale” for example, in just a single sentence! Vale is practically the equivalent of the impassive American “umm” or “ok” with the exception that vale has much more charm behind it and is not only used as some sort of placeholder in colloquial Spanish, but as a response to a question or a form of confirmation. The point is, that “¡vale!” eventually stuck. (Note: If you want to blend in with the Spanish you’ll eventually have to succumb to this catchy and contagious word.)

Reina Sofia Museum

Reina Sofia Museum

            The Spanish classes as well as the full immersive experience in Madrid, not only helped me become a more skilled Spanish writer in my internship, but also for my current internship at Venue Magazine that is catered mainly for Spanish speakers. The classes and my day-to-day experiences living amongst Spanish speakers made an unbelievable impact on my writing. Thanks to my PINC internship placement and customizes experience, plus Spanish classes, and interacting with people who solely spoke Spanish on a daily basis, my vocabulary and skills have been strengthened, which has allowed me to express myself through my writing just as well in Spanish as I do in English. But the best teachers of all are time and experience. If it wouldn’t have been for the fact that I decided to do a two month internship in Madrid, I may have never chosen to actually ever write in Spanish and just stick to English. This summer opened up so many more possibilities with a language that has always been a part of me.


About the Author:

My name is Gisel Olivares and I am currently an online graduate student via the University of Florida pursuing a Master of Arts in Mass Communication with a specialization in Web Design and Online Communication. I was raised in New York City and I moved to Miami at the age of 18 where I completed my Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Mass Communication with a track in Public Relations at Florida International University. One of my many passions as you can tell is writing, as well as traveling. Other than my place of birth, the Dominican Republic, I was lucky enough to have traveled to Niagara Falls, Madrid, San Sebastian (in Spain), Bordeaux, and Paris. When I found out about the PINC program and that the founder and CEO was my sorority sister I knew I needed to sign right up and go for it. I was missing some real hands-on experience in my field of study, and kicking myself out of the country was the best thing I could’ve ever done.

I got to intern at Ebualá media in Madrid, a boutique marketing agency that I absolutely loved and enjoyed working at everyday. Up to this day, I can confidently say that that has been my best work experience yet. The people there understood and taught me so much and for that I am forever grateful to them and, most importantly, Lisette for making it all possible. Since I’ve been back from Madrid I’ve landed two internship positions, one of which is officially my part time job. I am a copywriter intern at Venue magazine, and an Executive and Marketing Assistant for yet another boutique marketing agency, M2 Brands Inc. Now to be able to write about my experiences within and out of Madrid for you all is something I am so happy to be doing. Being granted the opportunity to mix my passion for traveling with writing is yet something else I have Lisette to be grateful for.


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